U.S. Targets New, Emerging Drug-Trafficking Gangs in Colombia
By Dialogo February 11, 2011
The Narcotics Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office has created a special unit dedicated to dismantling emerging drug-trafficking criminal gangs in Colombia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami announced on 9 February.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Wilfredo Ferrer, said that this new investigative section is designed to identify gangs (Bacrim) that have arisen in Colombia to fill the power vacuum left by the fall of the Norte del Valle cartel and the dismantling of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Units of Colombia (AUC).
“The United States government will not rest until we eradicate the BACRIMs and destroy their ability to ply their trade, as we did the former drug cartels,” Ferrer said.
On 8 February, a Miami grand jury returned an indictment against Diego Pérez Henao, alias Diego Rastrojo, a thirty-nine-year-old Colombian believed to be the leader of one of these new criminal gangs, known as “Los Rastrojos” [The Stubble].
The indictment charges Pérez Henao with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute large amounts of cocaine, in the knowledge that it would be illegally imported into the United States. If found guilty, Pérez Henao would face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami indicated.
U.S. charges are also pending against eight other members of these gangs, the office added.
Colombian “law enforcement’s success in removing the leadership of the major Colombian drug trafficking organizations has resulted in smaller groups, or bands of criminals, coming together to continue large-scale importation of cocaine into the United States,” the special agent in charge of the DEA office in Miami, Mark R. Trouville, indicated.
“Los Rastrojos” are one of seven criminal gangs, made up in part of former paramilitaries, operating in Colombia today.
The regrouping of drug traffickers in these emerging groups is a concern for and one of the priorities of Juan Manuel Santos’s Colombian administration, which relies on strong U.S. support for the fight against drugs.